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How to Prevent MERS

How to Prevent MERS

MERS-CoV comes from the coronavirus family. Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses. There are several types of coronavirus that affect humans, while some affect farm animals and domesticated pets. These viruses can cause anything as simple as a common cold, to more serious infections such as the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus, also known as MERS-CoV.

From the MERS cases, 35% end in death. Most of those who have died from MERS were observed to have weakened immune systems or had underlying medical conditions. Thus, preventing MERS is crucial to avoiding fatalities.

Though there is still no vaccine for MERS-CoV, treatment is available to manage the symptoms. As long as patients have a strong, healthy immune system, the possibility of a full recovery is very high.

Preventing MERS: How you can protect yourself

MERS-CoV is transmitted via respiratory droplets and can enter a person’s system via nose, mouth, and eyes. When it comes to preventing MERS-CoV, there are a couple of things that you can do even if you do come in contact with a carrier of the virus.

Frequent hand washing is the most recommended for preventing MERS-CoV. On average, a person touches his face more than five times per hour.

That’s 700 times a day. Your hand normally comes into contact with a lot of people and surfaces, making it easy to pick up germs. The MERS-CoV virus spreads from the hand to the skin, and remains alive for a few hours on surfaces like railings, the floor, and countertops.

Frequent hand washing and sanitizing are a few ways of preventing MERS-CoV. It is recommended that you wash your hands with soap for at least 20 seconds. You need to lather thoroughly – focusing on scrubbing between the fingers and the back of the hand – to make sure that bacteria and other viruses are killed.

It does not matter if you use ordinary soap or antibacterial soap. What is more important is that you wash thoroughly. It is the combination of soap plus the rubbing of the hands for 20 seconds that gets rid of the virus and makes preventing MERS more effective.

What if there’s no soap and water available?

You may replace hand washing with hand sanitizer as long as the hand sanitizer is alcohol-based. If you will be using alcohol, it is recommended that you get the one that is 70% alcohol versus the 30%. Ethanol at 70% can dissolve the lipid cover of viruses and disintegrate its protein structure.

Preventing MERS: How you can protect others

While simple handwashing and alcohol can kill the virus, the challenge that most face is that MERS-CoV can easily be spread from person-to-person.

That is why people must be vigilant in ensuring that they protect themselves and be wary of transmitting the virus to others.

Here are ways to stop the spread of MERS and reduce risk:

  • Bring your own utensils. If you will be eating out especially at restaurants where utensils are not disposable, bring your own set to be safe. Even if the utensils and dishes are washed in hot water, the virus can still live on the surface and spread.
  • Disinfect your homes especially high-touch spots such as door knobs, handrails and other surfaces. The virus can live on these surfaces for hours so make sure that you disinfect them regularly.
  • Minimize or avoid contact with people who have recently travelled to the Middle East. Majority of the confirmed cases of MERS came from people who had travelled to and from the Middle East.
  • Wear a mask in public to cover your nose and mouth. Use a tissue when coughing or sneezing, and discard it immediately. If you sneeze into your hands, make sure to wash after. If you don’t have a facemask or tissue on hand, cough or sneeze into the crook of your elbow.
  • If you feel sick, avoid going out to reduce the risk of spreading the virus. When you visit the doctor or head out to the hospital, make sure to call ahead of time and advise them of your condition. This is to help the hospital prepare and make the necessary precautions to avoid infecting the medical staff and other patients.
  • If you live with other people and you believe that you may have MERS, it is strongly recommended that you isolate yourself. If you experience mild symptoms, self-quarantine in a separate room so that you will not infect others. Preventing MERS starts with social distancing.

Key Takeaways

If you have not had any close contact with someone who has MERS or is suspected of having MERS, and if you have not travelled to the Middle East recently, then you can be confident that you most likely do not have the virus. The symptoms you may be experiencing may be due to a regular flu or a bad case of cough and cold.

If you have any suspicions that you might be a carrier, consult a doctor immediately. As proper protocol, advise the hospital beforehand of your visit and fully disclose your condition. When it comes to preventing MERS, the CDC recommends strictly following the preventive measures to help reduce your risk and protect those around you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.


MERS Prevention and Treatment https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/mers/about/prevention.html Accessed 30 May 2020

MERS: Prevent Spreading in Homes and and Communities https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/mers/hcp/home-care-patient.html Accessed 30 May 2020

MERS infection prevention and control https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/mers/infection-prevention-control.html Accessed 30 May 2020

Infection prevention and control during health care for probable or confirmed cases of Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) infection https://www.who.int/csr/disease/coronavirus_infections/ipc-mers-cov/en/ Accessed 30 May 2020

Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) https://www.who.int/news-room/q-a-detail/middle-east-respiratory-syndrome-coronavirus-(mers-cov) Accessed 30 May 2020

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Written by Kathy Kenny Ylaya Ngo Updated Nov 10, 2020
Medically reviewed by January Velasco, M.D.